Monocytes as antigen-presenting cells play an important role in host defence. There are several cytokines affecting monocyte function. We demonstrate that both adult and cord blood monocytes constitutively express hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) receptor, MET. HGF significantly down-regulated MET expression of adult blood monocytes, compared with cord blood monocytes, when cultured either in RPMI-1640 containing 10% FBS or serum-free medium. Surface levels of MET correlated with c-met mRNA levels both in adult and cord blood when cultured. MET expression was down-regulated by treating with actinomycin D or cycloheximide. HGF stimulated DNA synthesis of adult monocytes, but not cord blood. HGF enhanced antigen-presenting capacity of adult blood monocytes but not cord blood monocytes. HGF up-regulated HLA class I expression in adult monocytes but not in cord blood monocytes. The current results suggest that the failure of cord blood monocytes to respond to HGF may be responsible, in large part, for their functional immaturity.